By Euan Loarridge, Great War Project Editor
Satellite image of the Pollock Park trenches, taken 24/05/2018. Features are marked numerically and match the headings in this post. Google 2018.
For the past three years, Northlight Heritage, in partnership with the University of Glasgow and Glasgow City Council, has built and maintained a series of reconstruction trenches in the grounds of Pollok Country Park. As the centenary comes to a close, so to do the trenches, with the final open day taking place Sunday 9th of December 2018 (For more information see here). This post is the first of a two part blog which will take a virtual tour of the trenches explaining their purpose and how they have developed over the past three years. The second part of this blog will be made available on the DiggingIn Website.
1. The Dugout:
Images of the Dugout taken over the last two years, showing its construction and use as medical aid stations, venue for talks and accommodation for troops.
Immediately upon entrance to the British trench network, the visitor is met by the Dugout. Constructed in August of 2016, this feature was part of the most substantial extension of the network which added a reserve area to the Allied trenches during the Somme Centenary. The dugout is a simple construction of timber and corrugated iron, sunk into the side of the trench. It is representative of the typical British dugout which provided little protection from a explosions, but did minimise damage from shrapnel and debris. Dugouts like these were often used for a variety of purposes, including accommodation for the soldiers, commands posts for officers and medical facilities such as casualty clearing stations or aid posts.
2. ‘Queensferry Road’ Communication Trench:
Images of the Communication Trench, taken over the last two years.
Taking a left from the dugout, the visitor enters ‘Queensferry Road’, a communication trench which was built in August 2016 and connects the dugout in the ‘Reserve’ line to the ‘Front’ line trench. During the First World War both sides dug thousands of miles of communication trenches that allowed them to move troops in and out of the line without being seen or shot at. The trench is not straight, but kinked, so that the damage from explosions was limited and enemy troops that get into the network cannot shoot all the way down the trench. Communication trenches were often quite narrow and it was common for them to be one way systems, with some serving as ‘up’ trenches to bring fresh troops and supplies to the front, and other as ‘down’ trenches to sent back wounded and exhausted soldiers.
3. ‘Argyle Street’ The Front Line:
Argyle Street, the front-line trench, showing different sections since the first hand-dug trench in August 2015 to the complex system seen in October 2018.
Turning the corner at the end of Queensferry Road the visitor enters ‘Argyle Street’, the British front-line trench, which is immediately recognisable due its fire-step and zig-zag shape. This is the oldest part of the network which dates back to August 2015, when the first trench was hand-dug by members of the Scots in the Great War living history group and the University of Glasgow Officer Training Corps. A month later this original trench was replaced by the more substantial structure that can be seen today. In order to accommodate the general public Argyle street was built to one of the highest standards known in the First World War and the reality was often more haphazard and dangerous.
4. ‘Crichton’s Corner’:
Images of Crichton’s Corner, a machine gun nest or snipers post. Taken over the last three years since its construction in October 2015.
At the far end of the Argyle Street is a position known as ‘Crichton’s Corner’. This was the first addition to the British trench network, built by the member of the Scots in the Great War living history group in October 2015 and named after one of their members. The position is often used as a machine gun nest or sniper’s position and the visitor can learn more about these activities from the re-enactors and living history experts who man this post.
5. ‘Trongate’ and Latrine Trench:
The hand-dug trenches, seen from their construction in 2016 through to 2018.
In order to be accessible to the general public, the majority of the trench network had to be built to a standard that would rarely have been seen during the First World War. However, the Trenches at Pollock Park are not just a visitor attraction, but also an academic research project intended to improve our understanding of trench construction and maintenance through the use of Experimental Archaeology. This work began in the Spring of 2016 when parts of the ‘Trongate’ and Latrine trench were dug by hand. Strengthened over time by wood and later corrugated iron revetments, they trenches are dug and maintained using the same methods and tools used by soldiers in the First World War. These sections are not open to the public, but do offer a more realistic indication of the conditions of the average trench during the War.
6. Sapping Tunnel:
The exterior of the network’s tunnel experience, with viewing ports to see inside.
The most recent addition to the British Trenches was undertaken in the Spring of 2017 in advance of the anniversaries of the Battles of Arras and Messines. In both of these battles, underground mining and tunnels played a key role. To reflect this, an tunnel section was added to the British Trench network. Tunnels played a number of roles in the First World War, from shallow saps that allowed safe access to No Man’s Land, to enormous caverns that kept thousands of troops safe from enemy bombardment. Tunneling was also used offensively to dig under the enemy line and detonate explosives, creating a breach in the enemy trenches that could be attacked. Most tunnels in the First World War were dark, cramped and incredibly dangerous and so the public cannot enter the tunnel network, but can instead peer inside from two viewing ports.
Professor Tony Pollard of the University of Glasgow gives a tour of the British Trenches.
The second half of this blog will be posted on the DiggingIn website in due course.
For more information on the open days and further images of the trenches, visit http://diggingin.co.uk
Images kindly supplied by Northlight Heritage and Euan Loarridge.